One of the four Mounties who confronted Robert Dziekanski at Vancouver airport when he was stunned with a taser and died more than eight years ago is suing the RCMP, claiming the force caused him debilitating psychological harm and ruined his career after years of negligence, bullying and intimidation.
Constable Gerry Rundel, who was acquitted last year of a perjury charge related to his testimony at a public inquiry into Mr. Dziekanski's death, filed a civil claim in B.C. Supreme Court on Monday. Since the incident, he has been on and off sick leave as a result of chronic post-traumatic stress disorder, according to his statement of claim.
When the Polish immigrant died in October, 2007, the RCMP initially told the public Mr. Dziekanski continued to fight with officers while being tasered and arrested. A month later, an eyewitness video surfaced that contradicted the force's version of events.
Those errors created an "international public perception of a coverup of wrongdoing" by the four officers, which brought Constable Rundel "into public contempt and [meant he was] publicly shamed," according to the lawsuit.
Because of this, Constable Rundel, who has never been disciplined for his actions that night and maintains he followed his training, has suffered "permanent and irreparable harm including extreme embarrassment, loss of reputation, extreme stress resulting in disabling psychological and physical injury, personal expense and financial loss and he will continue so to suffer," the statement of claim alleges.
"As a result of the negligent conduct of the defendant, the plaintiff's career with the RCMP has been effectively destroyed and any other future career path seriously and adversely affected," the lawsuit alleges.
None of the allegations have been proven in court. The Attorney-General of Canada and B.C.'s Minister of Justice were named as the defendants because they employ Mounties in British Columbia.
Spokespeople for both the B.C. RCMP and the provincial government said Monday afternoon that they had no comment because neither had been formally served. Neither has filed a statement of defence.
Mr. Dziekanski, a Polish immigrant who did not speak English, had come to Canada to live with his mother but became lost one afternoon and wandered the airport for 10 hours into the early morning. Eventually, he began throwing furniture in the international arrivals area and was stunned with the taser seconds after the officers arrived on the scene. He died on the airport floor.
After the incident, Constable Rundel, then 46 years old and only a Mountie for two years, took a statement and seized evidence from a bystander filming what would later become the definitive video of the death, according to Monday's statement of claim.
"At no time was the plaintiff involved in any manner whatsoever with either the use of the taser, a decision to use the taser, or the direction to deploy the taser," the lawsuit alleges.
(Last summer, the widow of the RCMP spokesman who made the initial comments about the arrest and death of Mr. Dziekanski filed a separate lawsuit in B.C. Supreme Court, stating that her husband was told he would lose his job if he tried to correct his previous statements.)
After the final report from the public inquiry into the death was released in 2010 and found to be critical of the testimony given by the four officers, then-RCMP commissioner Bill Elliott told reporters that the officers "fell short" of their duties.
All four were charged with perjury, with the Crown alleging they colluded to tell homicide investigators one story and later lied at the public inquiry. Constable Rundel was acquitted and Constable Bill Bentley won his initial case as well as an appeal by the Crown. Constable Kwesi Millington, the officer who repeatedly tasered Mr. Dziekanski, and former corporal Benjamin (Monty) Robinson, the senior officer that night, are out on bail pending appeals of their convictions last year.
Despite an internal and external review and several investigations by other policing bodies, Constable Rundel has never faced any "discipline or guidance" for his actions that morning, the claim states.
He has, however, faced continued bullying from superiors to quit the force and has been warned to refrain from speaking to the media about his perjury case, the lawsuit claims.
Last fall, while on long-term sick leave for his PTSD, pressure to return to work from a superior at the Nanaimo detachment made him feel "harassed, belittled and bullied,'" the claim alleges.